US embassy cable - 05QUITO120

DEMINING: POLITICAL PROBLEMS THREATEN OPERATIONAL SUCCESSES

Identifier: 05QUITO120
Wikileaks: View 05QUITO120 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Quito
Created: 2005-01-19 20:04:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Tags: KHDP PHUM MASS MOPS MARR EC PE
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 QUITO 000120 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR WHA/AND, WHA/PPC, PM 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: KHDP, PHUM, MASS, MOPS, MARR, EC, PE 
SUBJECT: DEMINING:  POLITICAL PROBLEMS THREATEN OPERATIONAL 
SUCCESSES 
 
REF: 04 QUITO 2324 
 
1.  SUMMARY:  Humanitarian demining (HD) continues apace in 
Ecuador, although political difficulties - both bilateral and 
multilateral - threaten future effectiveness.  2004 successes 
include the conclusion of mine clearance operations in El 
Oro, near-completion in Loja, and termination of mine impact 
studies in Morona-Santiago.  International monitors have 
deployed in HD workzones to ensure top quality performance. 
And the contemplated FY2005 NADR appropriation should allow 
demining to continue uninterrupted until December 2005, if 
not longer. 
 
2.  Expected European Union HD funding has yet to 
materialize, however, owing partly to the EU's demand that 
Ecuador and Peru improve coordination to reduce costs.  And 
with both sides bickering over an El Oro commemorative event, 
Peru's allegedly insufficient deminer deployments, and even 
the location of the pre-1998 frontier, better cooperation 
appears miles away.  END SUMMARY. 
 
------------------- 
A Year of Successes 
------------------- 
 
3.  Guillermo Leal, head of the OAS's HD mission in Ecuador, 
provided Poloff January 11 a readout of current demining 
activities and future plans.  He called 2004 generally 
successful, HD-wise.  Mine clearance operations had ended in 
coastal El Oro province and residents were slowly returning 
to remediated land.  To the south and east, mine removal 
activities had concluded in all by seven demarcated fields in 
Loja province, in Ecuador's southern highlands.  Those 
minefields' difficult terrain -- mainly rocky riverbeds with 
high metallic content -- made discriminating between mines 
and the surrounding soil difficult.  Leal claimed HD experts 
and manufacturers' representatives would visit Ecuador in 
April to evaluate state-of-the-art mine detection equipment 
not currently in the GoE inventory. 
 
4.  Fifty Ecuadorian Army sappers had deployed to Amazon 
province Morona-Santiago, Leal revealed.  In December, they 
had completed a provincial mine impact study, the first phase 
in remediation (a technical study, mine clearance, and 
quality assurance would follow).  The Army team had 
discovered and begun demarcating 53 mined areas on Ecuador's 
side of the frontier; they estimated an equal number existed 
in neighboring Peruvian territory.  Near-term funding for the 
complex, tedious jungle operations appeared secure, with word 
of an estimated $260k FY2005 appropriation of State 
Department Nonproliferation, Antiterrorism, Demining and 
Related Activities (NADR) monies. 
 
--------------------------- 
With Failure in the Future? 
--------------------------- 
 
5.  Leal worried that European Union support, upon which out 
year (2006-2009) HD operations depended, looked iffy at best. 
 Since minefields lay along the Peru-Ecuador border, EU 
appropriators argued against funding separate demining 
programs, as the OAS had.  Instead, they were demanding joint 
operations wherever possible.  Leal had urged the GoE to 
coordinate its EU "sales pitch" with GoP counterparts; he was 
skeptical of his own success, however.  (Southcom staff claim 
that Leal's OAS superiors in Washington are more optimistic 
that EU funding will come on-line, once the two institutions 
resolve "procedural issues.") 
 
6.  Nor was Leal optimistic the two countries' authorities 
could resolve a tiff in El Oro.  For political reasons, both 
Ecuador and Peru wanted a public ceremony to commemorate HD's 
completion on the coast, Leal explained.  Yet as long as Peru 
refused to allow OAS quality assurance teams to verify the 
Peruvian Army's earlier remediation, Ecuador was leery of 
declaring the province mine-free (the OAS's monitors now 
number eight and hail from Brazil, Chile, and Central 
America).  The GoE had similar reservations regarding 
Peruvian sappers' work in the highlands, in Peruvian 
territory bordering Loja.  But Ecuador was most perturbed by 
Peru's lack of commitment to clearing mines in the eastern 
jungle.  Leal asserted it made little sense for Ecuadorian 
soldiers to devote time, money and lives to HD operations on 
the frontier while Peru left its side seeded and dangerous. 
That said, the GoE was committed to continuing HD operations 
in Morona-Santiago. 
 
7.  Numerous factors contributed to the GoP's poor demining 
record in Peru, Leal added.  The Peruvian Army was perhaps in 
worse financial straits than Ecuador's, for one, and faced 
greater security threats from insurgent groups.  And the 
logistics of supporting a company of deminers, difficult in 
Ecuador, were nearly insurmountable in Peru, where supply 
lines were many times longer.  Politics too played a part, as 
Ecuadorian forces, especially at the brigade and battalion 
levels, continued to suspect Peruvian counterparts' 
intentions.  They regularly interceded with HQ to prevent GoP 
units from re-supplying via Ecuadorian territory, for example. 
 
8.  Relations were little better between GoE and GoP 
diplomats, Leal lamented.  At a recent meeting of the 
bilateral frontier commission, the countries' representatives 
had wasted hours arguing a technicality:  if the mines that 
Ecuadorian forces sowed before the 1995 hostilities, now 
clearly in Peruvian territory (as a result of the 1998 peace 
accord that marked the frontier), originally lay on 
Ecuadorian land.  What mattered was remediation, not winning 
moot debates, Leal reasoned. 
 
9.  Another bilateral battle loomed.  As part of the 
continuing USG commitment to HD operations in the Andes (and 
to promoting multilateral cooperation region-wide), U.S. 
military experts planned to train GoE and GoP deminers in 
Morona-Santiago in July.  Leal was confident he could 
convince Ecuador's Foreign Ministry to approve the presence 
of the Peruvians.  The Army was a different matter. 
Believing his influence in that institution lacking, he 
floated a possible strategy:  that U.S. Embassy Milgroups in 
Quito and Lima lobby their respective host-nation militaries 
to achieve approval for the joint event. 
 
10.  COMMENT:  The Embassy appreciates Department support of 
humanitarian demining in Ecuador and neighboring Peru. 
Realizing that competing demands, especially from central and 
southeast Asia, make funding HD operations here a hard sell, 
we favor any initiative -- Southcom's combined training being 
one -- designed with effectiveness AND cost savings in mind. 
Leal's plan to secure bilateral buy-in by engaging the Quito 
and Lima Milgroups seems reasonable and worth exploring.  As 
such, he, Embassy officers, and a Southcom representative 
will discuss the details on January 24.  END COMMENT. 
Chacon 

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